Music festivals and gender inequality in 2018

The last few years have been amazing for women in music. The honest and vulnerable, yet badass and unapologetic attitudes of so many female musicians have been a source of inspiration that I am so grateful for. So in the midst of music festival season, I expected to see these women’s names on posters everywhere.

Janelle Monáe’s “PYNK” music video (Image: Wondaland Arts Society / Atlantic Records)

But looking at the lineups of some of the nation’s most popular shows revealed an exhausting reality. There is still a huge gender imbalance.

Pitchfork tracked  20 of this year’s biggest festivals and found that 70 percent of the featured artists were male, while only 19 percent were female.

Many festivals have begun to advocate for better representation. Recently, 45 festivals from around the world pledged their support to a European campaign by the name of Keychange, which vowed to achieve a 50/50 gender balance by the year 2020. 

As of 2018, however, we still appear to be far behind. Out of the 20 festivals that the article featured, only Pitchfork Music Festival, FYF and Panorama had reached the 50/50 threshold.

FYF Fest / Photo by Evan Schell

“The fact that women are still underrepresented in the music business – on stage as well as behind the stage or working in management and other leading positions – is undeniable. But so is the fact that there are thousands of exceptionally competent and talented women working in these fields . . .” – Susanna Fellner, Waves Vienna

The issue of underrepresentation has been a pervasive one. Whether we are talking about movies, television shows, or music, women have always been disproportionately left out. This is not an issue of capability. I can name dozens of female musicians that consistently blow generic male-fronted indie bands out of the water. The fact is that our society has been unwilling to accept that women are talented and respectable artists.

This is (slowly) changing. I remain hopeful that if we, as music fans, support the right brands, we will change the future for women in music.

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